Derby Free School In "Chaos"
17 October 2013, 07:57
An urgent investigation into a controversial Muslim free school is expected to condemn it as ``dysfunctional'' and call for it to be placed into special measures, it emerged tonight.
Al-Madinah faith school in Derby is ``in chaos'' and has ``not been adequately monitored or supported'', according to a report seen by the Guardian.
The school has come in for criticism over recent weeks following claims it discriminated against women, required staff to cover their hair even if they were not Muslim and made girls sit at the back of the classroom and boys at the front.
Ofsted inspectors reportedly found that teachers at the free school are inexperienced and ``over-generous'' when assessing pupils while the governing body is ineffective.
``This school is dysfunctional,'' the report states. ``The basic systems and processes a school needs to operate well are not in place. The school is in chaos and reliant on the goodwill of an interim principal to prevent it totally collapsing.''
``This is a school which has been set up and run by representatives of the community with limited knowledge and experience,'' it adds.
``Leadership and management, including governance, are inadequate and have been unable to improve the school.''
Inspectors added: ``Staff have been appointed to key roles for which they do not have qualifications and experience. For example, most of the primary school teachers have not taught before and the head of the primary school is experienced in teaching secondary-aged pupils only.''
Al-Madinah, which is one of the Government's flagship free schools, opened in September last year.
On its website it describes ''a strong Muslim ethos'' with shorter holidays and longer school days ''to maximise opportunities for pupil achievement and success''.
Earlier this week the school said it was seeking legal advice over the way it has been treated by government after ministers warned it faced closure.
Labour seized on the Ofsted report as proof the Coalition's free schools policy was a dangerous and out of control experiment.
Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt said: ``What this report exposes is that David Cameron and Michael Gove's Free School programme has become a dangerous free-for-all: an out of control ideological experiment that has closed a school, leaving 400 children losing an entire week of learning.
``Pupils have been failed on every possible measure and parents will want to know how David Cameron and Michael Gove have allowed this to happen - especially as Ofsted identified that this school was not meeting the basic requirements on child protection before it was opened.
``Far from an isolated incident, the failings at this school reveal the systemic threat to education standards under this Government.
``David Cameron and Michael Gove can no longer ignore this issue - it is a crisis entirely of their own making.''
A Department for Education spokesman said: ``We were already investigating this school before allegations became public. We discussed the problems with Ofsted and it launched an immediate inspection.
``We have received a response from the Al-Madinah Education Trust as well as a report on the school from Ofsted. Any decisions made will take into account all the available evidence.''